The Miniaturist

Based on a novel, The Miniaturist has been adapted by the BBC and PBS. Set in 17th century Amsterdam, it’s the story of  young Petronella Brandt, who agrees to be married off to a rich merchant to pay off her late father’s debts and save her mother and siblings from poverty. A Vermeer beauty, Petronella finds herself in a weird family. Her husband Johannes is never around and after almost two weeks hasn’t the energy, or so he says, to consummate the marriage. Her sister-in-law Marin is Puritanically devout and has a strange obsession with her brother. Marin’s behavior suggests there could be something incestuous between Johannes and her, but by the end of episode one, we see that was a diversion. I think the plot’s full of these diversions.

The two servants are Otto, whom Johannes bought from slave traders and Cornelia. I’d expect such a wealthy man to have more servants.

There’s a lot of mystery once Petronella’s wedding gift arrives. It’s a miniature version of her new home. She’s told to hire someone to decorate it and finds an artisan, a miniaturist, to make a few new objects for her. When she goes to meet the miniaturist he (or she) is out. Petronella never meets this mysterious figure. The odd thing is that she’s presented with additional objects she didn’t order, such a baby cradle and a box with keys. Somehow the miniaturist knows all the family secrets.

I find the plot annoying because it’s so overtly manipulative. I feel like the writer is toying with me. Also, despite a lot of research and detail, much of the dialog and themes are very modern or a modern person’s projection on to the past. Stereotypes, like the cold, rich friends and the pious sister also distance me from the story. I wish there were more characters who spoke. It seems like they’re keeping the budget down by having such a small cast, but perhaps that’s now the books was. I’m not sure I’ll watch the rest. The Victorian Slum Home show was much more interesting.

It’s a pity because I think this setting is fascinating. It’s no Poldark or Victoria. Even though I feel for Petronella, there’s something about her that makes her distant. I wish some characters were more warm-blooded.

The Cold War

Since so much of the social studies lessons I had focused on the USSR, I take for granted that people know about the Cold War, but my mother, a former social studies teacher tells me that in the last couple decades this topic isn’t covered and younger people don’t know much about it. This video provides a good introduction to the Cold War.

Making of Fanny’s Journey

Here’s a 20 minute video about the making of Fanny’s Journey, a well-crafted film based on a true story of a 13 year old girl who’s got to lead eight children out of Nazi-controlled France to Switzerland during WWII.

Fanny’s Journey

Based on Fanny Ben-Ami’s true story, Fanny’s Journey shows a thirteen year old girl who must lead her sister and friends out of WWII France into Switzerland. This powerful film captures childhood very naturally. The direction and acting are authentic and captivating.

Fanny and her sisters have been sent away from their parents to live in a boarding house that secretly protects Jewish children. When a priest informs on the boarding house, Madame Forman, one of the adults who run the place, manages to arrange for the children to go somewhere safer. She gets them all fake passports and schools them on what to say to anyone asking them questions en route. Each child is given a new name and Madame Forman tests them on them day and night.

From the start it’s touch and go. Germans are everywhere and Vichy French police are an equal threat. At first an older boy, Eli is in charge of the children, but after he’s arrested, Fanny’s thrust into the lead. She must figure out where to go and what to do next once their train is redirected and they lose touch with Madame Forman. As the going gets tougher and tougher the children feel like giving up and have plenty of complaints. Some are so young they have no idea why Jews must flee or what was happening to Jews throughout Europe. Their ignorance showed their wisdom.

The tension is maintained throughout the film and you’re heart will go out to these children. Fanny’s Journey is destined to be a classic.

In the final credits, you’ll see the real Fanny, who is still alive and has lived in Israel since the end of the war.

Poem of the Week

A Note on War Poetry

T.S. Elliot
Not the expression of collective emotion
Imperfectly reflected in the daily papers.
Where is the point at which the merely individual
Explosion breaks
In the path of an action merely typical
To create the universal, originate a symbol
Out of the impact? This is a meeting
On which we attend
Of forces beyond control by experiment—
Of Nature and the Spirit. Mostly the individual
Experience is too large, or too small. Our emotions
Are only ‘incidents’
In the effort to keep day and night together.
It seems just possible that a poem might happen
To a very young man: but a poem is not—
That is a life.
War is not a life: it is a situation;
One which may neither be ignored nor accepted,
A problem to be met with ambush and stratagem,
Enveloped or scattered.
The enduring is not a substitute for the transient,
Neither one for the other. But the abstract conception
Of private experience at its greatest intensity
Becoming universal, which we call ‘poetry’,
May be affirmed in verse.

Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday Theme Image  424 - June 2018

This week we’re prompted to post on farmers, agriculture or harvest. I descend from city folk, none with a green thumb that I know of so I’ll dig through the Library of Congress and Flickr Commons to find some images of Irish farmers since I’ve got a lot of Irish blood.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

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Ireland, 1920, National Library of Ireland, Flickr Commons

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Harvesting, Ireland, 1899, National Library of Ireland, Flickr Commons

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National Library of Ireland, Harvest, 1897

Here’s one from the U.K., since I’ve got some British blood and I’ve never seen an oyster farm:

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Report on Oyster Cultivation, U.K., ca 1870, Flickr Commons

Sepia Saturday

California Historical Society : Sepia Saturday Theme Image 418

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Union Station,Chicago

There’s no dining room or lunch counter in the station anymore, but Union Station has remodeled some lounges to return their old glory.

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The Berghoff Restaurant

This Chicago establishment is still in business, though on a smaller scale. I’ve been here a few times with my father. If you’re in the Loop, it’s worth a try.

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Marshall Field’s Walnut Room, Gilded Age

Marshall Field’s department story was “the” Chicago place to shop. It’s where Harry Selfridge got his start and Field was a great innovator in retail and a real estate mogul. (For much of his career he was the richest man in Chicago. Books have been written about Marshall Fields’ professional and personal life. He’s been featured in some novels. In Prairie Avenue he’s represented by Mr. Kennerly.)

My grandmother would take my siblings and I to Marshall Fields for lunch and shopping. We’d either eat in the Walnut Room or the Narcissus Room, where I loved to watch the gold fish in the fountain. 

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The fountain had goldfish

The menu’s highlights were it’s Field’s salad and hot fudge sundae, which what I’d still say is the best chocolate sauce ever.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

Did your grandparents take you to eat anywhere special?